Top seed Cignal averted a disaster from upset-seeking Sta. Elena-NU in a five-set, Game Three nail-biter, 25-16, 28-30, 20-25, 25-21, 18-16, to advance to the Finals of the 2019 Spikers’ Turf Reinforced Conference, Tuesday at the Paco Arena in Manila.
“First set, ‘yun talaga yung laro namin eh, biglang nabago,” said Cignal head coach Dexter Clamor. “Nabago yung diskarte ng setter [Vince Mangulabnan], nagkakaroon kasi ng emosyon e, may pagtatalo sa loob ng court, part kasi ng game yun, na may mag aaway [sa team] kasi pare-parehas silang gustong manalo. Buti na lang nakarecover.”
Marck Espejo unloaded 19 points which included 15 attacks while also tallying 33 excellent receptions and eight digs. Rex Intal played his best game in the series with 15 points built on 10 attacks, three blocks, and two aces.
After a series of breath-taking rallies in the fifth set, both teams found themselves in a tight 14-all deadlock. From there, it was an all-out battle between star hitters Nico Almendras and Espejo.
The four-time Spikers’ Turf MVP Espejo rose up, who is nursing a shoulder injury, and converted a cross-court hit to put Cignal at set point, 15-14. On the brink of elimination, Almendras mustered all his strength and delivered a kill to knot things up.
In the ensuing play, Espejo used his wits and delivered an off-speed attack to take the lead once more. Almendras rose up for one final attack to tie the game at 16-all.
Espejo converted an off-the-block attack and an ace in the following possession to completely put an end to the Ball Hammers’ gallant run.
This will be Cignal and Air Force’s sixth encounter in the finale. The HD Spikers are seeking their fourth crown.
The Finals series begins on Friday, July 19 at 7:00 pm.
Meanwhile, Cignal team captain Ysay Marasigan provided 13 points while Jude Garcia and JP Bugaoan converted 10 and nine hits, respectively.
Vince Mangulabnan drove the HD Spikers’ offense after dishing out 42 excellent sets to go along with his four points while Manuel Sumanguid led the defensive chores with 23 excellent receptions and 17 digs.
Despite taking the first set with ease, the HD Spikers lost their grip in the game and dropped the second and third sets.
Cignal regained its form at the right moment, taking advantage of Sta. Elena’s attack and service errors to take a 20-17 lead in the fourth set. Intal, Bugaoan, and Espejo took turns in delivering the differential hits to extend the game to a fifth set.
Almendras led the Ball Hammers’ tough stand with 29 points on 23 attacks, five blocks, and an ace while Edward Camposano fired 20 points, 17 of which came from hits.